Speak Lord: through suffering, speak of your love.

St Francis and Christ, Petit Palais, AvignonThe first reading at Mass yesterday, the 29th Sunday of the Year,  was taken from the prophet Isaiah. It is a part of one of the ‘servant songs’ of Isaiah, widely read as prophetic anticipations of the sufferings of Christ, particularly in his Passion.

In yestday’s blog there was a caution regarding any reading of the first line as a literal ‘explanation’ as to why Jesus was crucified. After all, it was not God but men who tortured and killed Jesus.

For today, though, let us pause and reflect on Jesus’ willingness to suffer for us: pause, reflect, wonder and give thanks.

The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.

If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over, he shall see the light and be content.

By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,

taking their faults on himself.
Isaiah 53:10-11

Jesus is of course not the only person who accepts, even chooses, suffering if it is the price demanded by faithful love. Many, many do this every day. Most commonly it is parents for their children.

In this case it it is not simply one of us who suffers for another of us. It is one who suffers for all (or for ‘the many’ as the semitic idiom puts it, retained in the current English translation of the Eucharistic Prayer). And it is not merely one of us who suffers, but that one is also God with us. God who so loves the world that he comes in the Person of the Son to suffer with us and for us to save us from the suffering of sin.

God suffers for us to save us from the suffering of sin and death, to free us by love for love.

Pope Francis has written of the joy of the Gospel. Our meditation on the suffering of Jesus should surely move us to joy, praise, and thanksgiving.

  • What else gives you joy?
  • Why?
  • What opportunities are there to share with others that joy, and the life it engenders?

Painting of St Francis adoring the Crucified Christ. Petit Palais, Avignon. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

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